We are getting excited for Saturday night when we do the first VIP retreat at Westside! Tonight I am working on my testimony and how to present it as part of the session. The plan is for Allison to talk about redemption just before I begin. And oh, what redemption stories we have to share with you! Stephanie’s testimony grips me every time I hear or read it. God pursued her through all of her choices, continually presenting His redemption to her. Allison can testify to how God has redeemed situations in her life to bring her freedom. My own story may not be as dramatic, but I find myself slipping into bouts of worthlessness and self-deprecation as I take my eyes off of the One who gave His all to redeem me.
I hope you can seen a theme here tonight: God can redeem. Redemption is simply a fancy word for buying back that which had been yours. God wants to redeem us; it’s in His nature. How tenderly He offers His redemption to you right now. He cannot wait to redeem His children for Himself.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, ” Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” Never forget that. We tend to emphasize the latter part of the verse: ” So you must honor God with your body.” I in no way want to detract from the truth of that statement, and you’ll see these verses pop up from time to time in VIP. For a few minutes, though, I want us to unearth the diamond in the middle: “God bought you with a high price.”
You were bought with a price. That means you are worth something! Someone had to determine that you are worth a certain amount and then be willing to give it. And this has happened, ladies. Can you imagine what the price was?
You were bought at the price of a life. Not just any life. The Life. The Truth. The Way to God: His only Son. See, God loves you so much that He gave His only Son in exchange for your life. Anyone who believes in Him will not receive what they deserve – death. No, instead, God offers you life – eternal life.
That is the message of the most popular verse in the Bible: John 3:16. It’s plastered on signs at sporting events, tacked up on billboards along our nation’s highways, painstakingly embroidered on cushions, and stamped on mass-produced paraphernalia for those fluent in Christianese. Have you ever stopped to ponder its message? Truly mediate on John 3:16?
This favorite verse comes out of a midnight conversation with a man who had been doing some serious pondering. Nicodemus had heard the words of this teacher Jesus, and they were disturbing his little world. He was wealthy, he followed the rules like a good Jewish man would, and he held a position of spiritual leadership. But this wasn’t good enough, and he was growing unsettled. Finally, one night, while all the other good Jewish people were safely tucked into their beds, he stole away to visit with Jesus. He asked a lot of questions, but basically he wanted to know this: how do I ensure eternal life for myself? Jesus’ answers puzzle Nicodemus, since he is still thinking in terms of his world’s way. What Jesus tells him is that he cannot achieve eternal life on his own. He can’t be good enough. He’s never going to earn it. He can try all he wants to, but his toiling won’t get him anywhere.
And then Jesus lifts Nicodemus’ gaze upward:
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him. For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the Light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God” (John 3:15-21).
I love talking about redemption; it’s one of my favorite themes peppered throughout Scripture. We find Abraham willing to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, and God providing a sacrifice, Joseph sold into slavery in Egypt but God using it for good, Boaz loving a foreigner named Ruth and redeeming the family heritage, David caught in sexual sin with Bathsheba but God forgiving to the point of allowing the lineage to Jesus through them, and the Jews dispersed in exile but a godly queen named Esther comes to power who saves her people. God loved to redeem in the Old Testament, and He sure didn’t slow down when Jesus started His ministry. Lepers receive perfect health and blind receive sight, and they are able to rejoin the community. Dead are raised back to life. The lame can walk. Sins are forgiven. You guys, Jesus is offering physical and spiritual redemption to these people. The power of Jesus doesn’t stop there. God keeps redeeming into the book of Acts, adding daily to those who followed The Way. God redeems throughout history, and He redeems daily in our time.
Your life today is given to you as a gift. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are made righteous by Jesus’ sacrifice of His very life. We are redeemed. He buys us back, paying the ultimate price, even though originally we were His. That’s one of the harsh parts about redemption: it involves paying for something that once belonged to you. God created everything in the world to be perfect and to belong to Him. When God created Adam & Eve, He enjoyed hanging out with them each evening. They were the peak of His creation. Then they chose to disobey Him, allowing sin and death to enter the world. But that didn’t stop God. Even with His heart freshly broken, God vowed that He would redeem humanity.
Because Jesus paid the price for redemption, you can be assured of your great worth. Jesus would not have given up His life if you didn’t mean anything to God. I’d like to go back to the images of the diamonds for a minute. One diamond appears all sparkly with its pristine cuts and clarity. The other is unpolished. However, both of these diamonds are extremely valuable.
God has named us as His children: beyond precious and valuable in His sight. It doesn’t matter where we have gone in life or what we have done in the past. God can redeem all trials and mistakes in our lives to make us into something valuable.
“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him. Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:1-3).
And our response? All you have to do is accept God’s invitation to be redeemed and set free from your sins. He cleans you up -purifies you – and names us as one of His children in His family. Ladies, what a privilege it is to be called one of God’s children! If you keep reading after the 1 John 3 passage into chapter 4, you’ll run into some of my favorite passages on the most powerful thing ever: the love of God. God first loved us so that we now can love Him back and love other people. Letting your whole life be a living sacrifice that pleases God is the way to worship Him truly (VIP’s theme verses, Romans 12:1-2). Everything in our lives can be material for sacrifices pleasing to God, which is why VIP champions purity in all aspects of life, going beyond just worrying about sexual purity. We can do as 1 John 3:3 says, “And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as He is pure.”
I’m hoping that we’ll see at least a few of you at the Westside retreat. If you won’t be there, please be praying for the ladies of VIP as well as the teens and youth sponsors attending. I know that God has awesome things planned!